Herb Washington

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Herb Washington
Pinch runner
Born: (1951-11-16) November 16, 1951 (age 63)
Belzoni, Mississippi
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 4, 1974 for the Oakland Athletics
Last MLB appearance
May 4, 1975 for the Oakland Athletics
Career statistics
Games played 105
At bats 0
Runs 33
Stolen bases 31
Career highlights and awards

Herbert Lee Washington (born November 16, 1951) is a former world-class sprinter in the early 1970s who parlayed his speed into a brief Major League Baseball (MLB) stint, and later became the owner/operator of numerous McDonald's restaurants and a minor league professional hockey franchise, and held a number of high-ranking executive posts on varied boards and organizations.

Washington became one of the world's most celebrated sprinters as a student-athlete at Flint Central High School and Michigan State University.[1] The four-time all-American won one National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title, seven Big Ten titles, and tied or broke the world record in the 50- and 60-yard dashes several times.[1] He went on to gain further recognition as a player for baseball's Oakland Athletics, despite not playing baseball since high school.[1][2] After being released in 1975 he was not signed by another team and retired.

Track career[edit]

During the 1972 Indoor season, he tied Kirk Clayton's two-year-old hand timed world record in the 50 yard dash of 5.0 at a meet in Toronto. A month later Mel Pender also tied the mark, twice. The following week, he set the 60 yard dash record outright at 5.8 at a home meet in East Lansing. Neither record has been surpassed, races run in yards are rare and records have been discontinued, hand times ceased to be accepted after 1977. The fastest fully automatic time in the 50 was set by Ben Johnson in 1988 at 5.15. His participation in the sport was disqualified later that year after Johnson famously tested positive for steroids following what looked like a world record win in the 1988 Olympics.

During the 1972 Indoor season, Washington was on the cover of the February issue of Track and Field News.[3] In 1973, Washington again tied the 50 yard record at the same meet in Toronto. Later that summer, Washington won the international Pacific Conference Games 100 metres also in Toronto.[4]

Pro baseball career[edit]

In 1974, Washington was tapped by Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley to become the team's "designated runner". Despite having no professional baseball experience, and having last played baseball in high school, Washington was a member of the Athletics 1974 World Series championship team. His MLB debut was on April 4, 1974, against the Texas Rangers.

Appearing as a pinch-runner for Joe Rudi in game two of the 1974 World Series, Washington was picked off first base in a crucial ninth-inning situation by Dodgers reliever Mike Marshall.[1]

Washington played in 105 Major League games without batting, pitching, or fielding, playing exclusively as a pinch runner.[5] He had 31 stolen bases in 48 attempts and scored 33 runs during his short career.[1] He was released one month into the 1975 season.[2][5] Washington is one of only seven players to have more game appearances than plate appearances.[6]

Washington's 1975 Topps baseball card is the only baseball card ever released that uses the "pinch runner" position label.[7][8]

Business career[edit]

Following his 13-month stint as the only "designated runner" in MLB history, Washington joined the professional track and field circuit and remained in competition until 1976.

In 1980, he moved from the Detroit area to Rochester, New York, where he opened an inner-city McDonald's restaurant. He added his second local McDonald's franchise seven months later, and in 1986 he opened a McDonald's in suburban Pittsford, New York. He acquired a total of five Rochester-area McDonald's franchises and became one of the nation's most successful African-American restaurateurs.[citation needed]

Washington was co-chairman of the Small Business Committee of the United Way, and was active in the Urban League of Rochester. Washington was named to the New York State Athletic Commission in 1990. In 1992, he became the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo, New York, branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and later was named Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.[9]

In 1998, Washington purchased most of the Youngstown, Ohio, area McDonald's franchises from Sam Covelli, once the largest McDonald's franchise owner in the United States.[citation needed]

In 2005, he founded the Youngstown Steelhounds minor league hockey franchise, becoming one of the first African-American owners of a professional hockey league team.[citation needed]

Washington currently resides in the Youngstown suburb of Boardman, Ohio, with his wife and children.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Player Page". BaseballHistory.com. Retrieved November 11, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b Kawahara, Matt (May 31, 2014). "Herb Washington served as A's 'designated runner' 40 years ago". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ https://www.trackandfieldnews.com/index.php/archivemenu/28-covers/133-past-covers-1967
  4. ^ "Pacific Conference Games". Gbrathletics.com. Retrieved 2015-04-16. 
  5. ^ a b "Player Page". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved November 11, 2007. 
  6. ^ Spatz, Lyle (2007). TheSABR Baseball List & Record Book – Baseball's Most Fascinating Records and Unusual Statistics. United States: Simon & Schuster. p. 496. ISBN 9781416532453. 
  7. ^ "Herb Washington". [dead link]
  8. ^ "Baseball's Only Designated Runner: Herb Washington". May 16, 2009. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  9. ^ Molaire, Mike F.; Jones, Marsha; Tanksley, Fred. African-American Who's Who, Past & Present, Greater Rochester Area (New Millenium ed.). pp. 193–4. 

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